Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Aphrodisiac toys for a Bowerbird

I have always regarded the blue bits of plastic (and feathers) which Bowerbirds collect - to be "trophies" (to show off their masculinity). But my brother Brendan has persuaded me that their real purpose is as "aphrodisiacs" - to please the female birds.

Anyway, I had a little time to spare the other day, after a careless demounting from a 3 step ladder. In other words I fell off it as I was getting down, and I needed to take a rest, to get over the physical shock. So I parked myself inside the back door window and waited to see if the Bowerbirds would steal the blue plastic pieces which Brendan had put out on the table outside.

Of course, we knew they would only last a few moments, as the male Bowerbirds collect blue items to decorate their display Bowers.

Here's what happened.

A point to note, this bird is an immature male. It still has the green plumage, but the coarse feathers have changed to smooth lines, especially around the neck and face. The top of the head is very smooth, with just a hint of blue-grey tonings. Nothing like the ultimate Satin Blue of the mature male, but he is "on the way".
The bone colouring of the beak is also developing.
This bird has a golden yellow feather in his wing, which helps me identify him.
Finally, this bird is super competitive - being outranked only by the Blue Bird(s). In turn, only a Currawong holds enough power and presence to dominate the feeder over a male Bowerbird in all his glory.

The Approach
picking up the Ring.
But wait - there's more.
Picking up a second piece.
Look at me! I've got the aphrodisiac toys.
Could I possibly get more?
Lets have a close look again.
What're you looking at?
Click to enlarge the image.
The bird is staring straight at the camera.
I'll settle for this lot.
Of course, the Blue male (or one of them) came back shortly afterwards and cleaned off the remaining blue objects. It is a very competitive world out there in the Bowerbird hierarchy.


rohrerbot said...

What a cool looking bird! I didn't know that they love blue bit and bobs and their eyes are really unique....thanks for sharing. Hope you're feeling better and be careful next time:)

mick said...

A great series of photos and what a precocious youngster! You have a wonderful ring-side seat for watching their antics. I hope you didn't seriously hurt yourself with the fall off the ladder. It's easy to do! I did the same 7 years ago when my house was being built - and broke an arm - which was a real hold-up for the building program :-(

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Rohrerbot and Mick
Thanks both of you for your concern.
I have a couple of superficial scratches, but I severely bruised my "tail bone" (the very tip of the spine).
I went to the Doctor to ask for some "magic cream" to rub on it, and he just looked at me, and said it will heal itself - give it time. Oh well, worth a try.
I will be more careful in future.
Back to the Bowerbirds.
I love their obsessive behaviour.
And as they come to the Feed Table (just out of screen to the left), leaving their "toys" on the work table in front of the door is a great opportunity for observation - but one has to "set it up", for they are very sneaky - and fast.

Le Loup said...

Excellent pics, thank you.

Red Nomad OZ said...

The greedy bugger! Have to admire his opportunism though ...

Happy travels!

Flabmeister said...


I join the chorus of folk wishing you a speedy recovery.

Should you need some mental amusement while recovering you will find the wikipedia article about 'aphrodisiacs' quite interesting. I am pleased that the bowerbirds do not find the need to display body parts of endangered mammals at their tryst sites!

Also thank you for the insights into ageing and sexing the SBBs, which I have found a challenge. I have usually wimped out and said 'green bird'.


Mac_fromAustralia said...

Please be careful on ladders! I speak from experience (fortunately a short ladder and convenient place to land).
Absolutely wonderful set of photos.

Mr. Smiley said...

Wonderful shots. But pity the poor Crimson Rosella community that has to out up with this fetish. They get caught by these sex-crazed males who pull off their blue feathers just for their bowers.

Good that you are putting out those milk bands for them. People need to cut them so they don't get caught around the bower bird's neck.

All the best.

Love your orchid shots too.

Tyto Tony said...

Your doctor and mine seem alike. I'd hate to ask for magic cream. The withering look would bruise worse than the original stumble! Have you tried unusual colours on the bowerbirds?

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Le Loup, Tony, Martin, Mac, Dave R, and Red Nomad Oz.
Martin is not alone in referring to "Green Birds". I can pick the changeling males, but juvenile and immature males and adult females still have me guessing.
Glad that Dave has mentioned the practice of cutting the rings from milk bottles in half (which we do). It prevents them trying to strangle themselves with the full ring.
We also cut the other blue stuff to make them easier for the birds to pick up.
Ladders and magic cream - the less said the better.
I am slowly returning to normal flexibility, now.
But I dislike ladders more than ever. A necessary evil, I am afraid.
Thanks everybody.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Denis,
Nice series of pics. Apart from the ladder episode, a beaut story. (We fall heavily these days eh?)
Regards and recover quickly,

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Gouldiae.
I am on the mend, but bruised bones heal slowly.
Nothing broken, fortunately.

Lynn said...

Sorry to hear about your rapid descent Denis. Hope you heal quickly - with or without magic cream ;) The pics are great!
I left some blue pegs only a few metres from where a distinctly satin male was jumping around in the bushes (at Hawks Nest) yesterday morning. Usually the pegs disappear but late yesterday afternoon they were still where I had left them. Some nasty mynas were bothering (dive bombing and the like) the bbird - I guess he must have been too busy defending his bower to be able to go searching for aphrodisiacs!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Lynn
Nothing permanent, I hope. But thanks. I know you would sympathise.
Re your Bowerbird, I assume it is the brown and white (large spots in wings) Common Mynah that you are talking about. They are very bossy birds.
Like all males, he would only be considering aphrodisiacs when he is in a "good mood" - and having to defend his play ground would put him off.
He will probably collect the pegs in a couple of days time.
Very considerate of you, anyway.